Are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells?


Kettlebells have gained popularity over the past few years although they have been around for decades. They are a traditional Russian cast iron weight, and now a days, you can find modern versions of them in any fitness store that sells exercise equipment. They come in a range of sizes from 8 lbs. up to 100 lbs. or more.

If you’re like me, you probably wonder if kettlebells have an advantage over dumbbells. You have probably seen some kettlebell exercises and wonder what is the big deal? Can’t you do the same thing with dumbbells? Some people may say yes and others may strongly disagree.

Can You Do the Same Kettlebell Exercises with Dumbbells?

From what I’ve read online, the answer is yes you can. However, kettlebells add more of a challenge due to their size and shape. The handles on a kettlebell are much thicker than that of a dumbbell which means it is more of a challenge to grip and move around. Therefore if you are looking for a more challenging workout, kettlebells will probably provide it a little more than dumbbells. Also, I would imagine the shape of a dumbbell would make it awkward to do moves like the kettlebell swing.

Why Kettlebells Then?

Kettlebell movements cause your body to work as one unit. You utitilize stabilizer muscles on a lot of the moves. Also, the movements are fast and after several reps and sets, you will have done an incredible cardio workout.

While kettlebells are still “weights” they do help to build muscle. If you are looking to build a bodybuilder’s physique, stick to what bodybuilders use: dumbbells, barbells, etc. Kettlebell training is known to effectively burn fat, shed the pounds, and develop more muscle definition in general.

Are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells?

Depending on who you ask, you may get a yes or no. In general, one is not better than the other – they are just different – and both offer their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

I like having variety in my workouts so I’m sure kettlebells would be a great fit in my home gym. What is your take on the kettlebell? Have you tried them?

Kettlebell Training Concepts and Benefits


Author: Eartha Haines

My name is Eartha and I created this blog as a motivational resource for myself to keep up with exercise and eating right. I enjoy reading, learning, and writing about all things fitness related. I hope that as well as motivating myself, others may find motivation to try fitness as well. Learn more.

74 thoughts on “Are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells?”

  1. Kettlebells shouldn’t just be picked up and tossed about. They are much more technically challenging than dumbbells. I can’t wait until all the fervor dies down. Many of the exercise idiots are prescribing have no basis.

  2. I knew a fellow gym-goer who used to swear by kettlebells for core training. I tried them one time, but they were kind of awkward to use so I just kept training with regular dumbbells. I suppose if I had give them more of a chance, I could of got used to them. With kettlebells getting less expensive in the stores, they might be a nice addition to my usual weight training routine.

  3. @Sandy – I’ve only seen a few kettlebell exercises myself. I wonder what is being taught.

    @Dave – Same here, seems like there is a huge following.

    @Barbara – Core conditioning seems like one of the biggest benefits of using them.

    @Stacy – I plan on adding them to my routine as well. I think they will provide challenge and fun to a workout.

  4. I’m 47. I played NCAA Football. I am also stronger, fitter and have better mobility than I did 20 years ago. I haven’t used any tools other than the kettlebell and my own bodyweight in 26 months.

  5. Kettlebells are great for core training, there are many exercises that you can do more comfortably with a kettlebell than you can with dumbbells. It’s true kettlebells are not better than dumbbells, they are just different.

  6. As with most fitness trends, kettlebells relieve boredom for those of us who crave variety. Yes, the kettlebell provides a different type of force (as does a sandbag) but is the average individual going to sustain a kettlebell workout? I don’t think so. It would be better to get folks working toward fitness with something more accessible and convenient. If you can’t naturally integrate a kettlebell workout, then it isn’t going to last. Only diehards will do this and just as a temporary respite from the standard dumbbells and barbells.

  7. No doubt. Here’s the main thing though. I haven’t been able to get equal work in with equal time. Kettlebells allow you to go to heck and back in 10 minutes. Difficult to pull off with another tool. That’s why my busy clients seem to like the tool best, I guess.

  8. I love kettlebell workouts because I get a cardio/strength workout with no impact.

    They require good form though, I highly recommend going to some classes in person to get the hang (or swing!) of it.

  9. I’d venture to say that 99.95% of people who are negative on kettlebells have never been instructed by a certified Kettlebell instructor. It isn’t something you go by at Target, pick up a video and learn. I can tell you that from experience LOL

  10. I have used kettlebells in the past. But I find that they do not allow natural movement. Compare dumbbell bicep curls to kettlebell bicep curl and there is no comparison.
    I find that you can work the muscle much better with a standard dumbbell, plus kettlebells take up a lot more space.

  11. Kettlebells are great for compound, total-body movements. In gengeral, compound exercises burn more calories than isolation exercises. Although one cannot achieve many isolation movements using kettlebells that can be achieved using barbells and dumbbells, they will certainly help to increase strength. Many people use Kettlebells extensively in core training as they are generally a lot less awkward than dumbbells and barbells.

    I personally, wouldn’t say either dumbbells/barbells or kettlebells are better than the other. They both have their benefits and downfalls. However, some exercises are definitely easier achieved using one over the other.

  12. I’ve noticed a lot of you speaking in terms of kettlebells vs. dumbbells. the truth is kettlebells provide an extension of fitness that dumbbells cannot provide alone. A ton of elite athletes use kettlebells for explosiveness as well as core conditioning as well as cardiovascular. You can get a full body workout with a kettlebell that will stimulate every muscle in your body as well as cause your lungs to feel like they will explode. You want to speak of fitness, just ask the Navy Seals. Professional boxers. I’m not saying that you are looking for this type of expertise. I’m just saying if it works for them why should we question the professional trainers.

    Yes its a lot more difficult, but i’ll guarantee your dumbbell workouts would benefit a lot more with them than without them.

  13. I have used free weights for years now and compete in powerlifting. Needless to say, I love my free weights!

    I started to become interested in kettlebells just over 18 months ago now, and can safely say that if used correctly, they are the single most versatile tool for developing all round fitness on the market today.

    The secret is to ditch the notion of working for reps, and work for timed sets intsead.

    2 Minute sets of kettlebell jerks and snatches will work your body like nothing else, providing a strong toning benefit while at the same time delivering a strong cardiovascular effect.

    The result is a significant level of Excess Post Exercise Oxygen consumption, which means more calories burnt AFTER the session is finished.

    Kettlebell swings for timed sets is another awesome exercise.

    I now use kettlebells exlusively as a tool for reducing body fat, while also developing a well rounded functional fitness element. I cant praise them enough!

  14. Kettlebells are great, and I use them in conjunction with dumbbells. But if you don’t want to spend the big bucks for kettlebells, or you don’t have the room for a bunch of them, stick with dumbbells and do the same moves. Although it’s not exactly the same, I trust experts like Ross Enamait and Scrapper when they say you can get the same benefits without the prohibitive cost.

  15. Kettlebells are indeed a tool, as some people here have described. Yet they are a needless tool. You can in fact, do compound ballistic movements with dumbbells, and you can also cheaply manufacture your own T-handle for swinging movements. has a wealth of info on this.

    Keep in mind, KB’s are solid weights. You cannot alter them. That’s stupid. So all the dumbasses who buy 16 and 24 kg kettlebells have effectively wasted a couple hundred bucks on something they’ll outgrow in no time flat. And if you think you’re going to use them to rep out and get “conditioned”, then why not try wind sprints, carries, or something else that won’t tear your hands to shit? Try 100 reps with your 16 kg KB and let me know how your hands are doing… stupid, just stupid.

    They do look cool though. Maybe that’s the allure – that or all the ad copy.

  16. I have a lot of respect for Ross Enamit, but saving money by using dumbells instead of kettlebells for KB exercises isn’t a great idea. Try playing golf with a baseball bat. The offset center of gravity unique to the kettlebell simply isn’t replicated with another strength implement.

    Also, if your technique is proficient your hands don’t get torn up. THe only “jacked up” hands I see are with folks who need to work on their form. I did 264 reps with the 20 kg bell yesterday. Hands are fine.

  17. For all around functional fitness, Kettlebells cannot be beaten. I cannot believe people still do isolation exercises at gyms these days. The body does not work in isolation so why train it to? Anbody doing tricep extensions, bicep curls or leg extensions should be laughed at.
    I guarantee that after six months of kettlebell training you will be fitter, leaner and stronger than you ever imagined! Do not fall into the body building mentality you see at gyms these days (still the same after 40 years!). Grab a kettlebell and swing yourself to complete all round fitness!

  18. After 9 months of kettlebell training, I did indeed feel fit, lean and strong, as you say.
    Unfortunately I had not taken certified kettlebell instruction, but had learned from books and dvds.
    I worked up to sets of 6 cleans and presses each arm, sets of 8 snatches each arm, with the 24kg kettlebell.
    This seemed to be going very well, for 9 months, then, 2 months ago, I did the 2nd rep of a set of snatches and broke my left forearm.
    I had to have surgery and now have a steel plate and 6 screws implanted on my radius bone.
    When I wrote to tell the author and publisher of the books I had been using, the most famous proponents of the kettlebell art, neither person would even reply.
    Their representative told me they felt there was “nothing to say”.
    I had thought they might have felt it necessary to warn people that the kettlebell snatch could do more than merely bruise a forearm.
    I very much wish I had stuck to dumbbells etc.
    Before this, I had been training for 24 years with no injury, ever.
    I posted full details of the injury on the website, if you Google “kettlebell snatch broken arm” it will come up on page one.

  19. If you are getting bruised forearms doing kettlebell snatches then your technique is completly wrong no matter what the weight. As for the broken arm….Then again there are people who have been put in hospital putting on their jeans in the morning!!

    My I suggest you get some proper instruction and perhaps for the kettle bell too.

    I guarantee there are more injuries from Dumbell training!

    I’ve been doing snatches for months and have never had the slightest bruise. Push your palm through at the top of the move.



  20. Great post! Kettlebells are like the secret weapon for conditioning the body and building functional strength. There are so many advantages to kettlebell training.

  21. I feel that this post could be fradulent. Something about it just doesn’t jibe. Not sure what but it’s a feeling I have. Snatches didn’t cause his injury if he had one, his snatches did. As for a warning, all DD Kettlebells come with a warning tag attached that they can “cause death.” I kinda laugh because what couldn’t cause it these days. I am an RKC and I’m sure Mr. DuCane’s lawyers advised the tag necessary in this day and age.

  22. Hello Mr Sommer,

    If you contact Dennis Armstrong at Dragon Door I am sure he will confirm to you that he corresponded with me in full detail during April about my injury.
    Likewise, if you Google “kettlebell snatch broken arm” the various websites where my injury has been fully documented will come up on page one.
    If that does not satisfy you, please let me know exactly how I may prove to you that my post is not fraudulent.
    If you Google and follow the links you will find full description of how the injury came about.

    I trained very happily for 9 months before the injury occurred.
    I was doing sets of 8 snatches each arm, once a week or so.
    I had no warning, not so much as a bruise on the arm, then the arm broke doing the 2nd rep of a set.

    Before this, I had not been injured in 24 years of training.

    I have serious family responsibilities and run 2 businesses.
    At 41, I certainly would not knowingly have risked injuring myself in this way.
    Neither myself, nor anyone I have been in contact with, have heard of a snatch breaking an arm before in this way (that is, someone doing snatches happily for months and then having this happen…RKC Josh Hillis did tell me of a woman who broke her arm doing a crazy first-snatch attepmt with a 32kg bell…and I have read of a woman on a website who had a stress fracture from snatches)

    Of course, you are right to say it must have been “his snatches”…that rep that broke my arm must have swung wild somehow…but I think it is worth warning people that this can happen…to someone who had been snatching for several months beforehand with not so much as a bruise for warning.

    I had never been injured during 24 years of previous training, probably because this was solely non-ballistic training.
    The ballistic element seems to have been my downfall.

    I’ve contacted Steve Cotter, Steve Maxwell, Clarence Bass, and others, about this.
    You will find that Steve Maxwell posted my letter and his detailed reply to it, on his website, so he did not share your “feeling” that my account did “not jibe”.

    Hello Mike,
    like you I did snatches for months without a bruise (6 months to be exact…I did not do snatches for the first 3 months I used my 24kg bell).
    That did not stop me breaking my arm on 4th April.

    If I had been doing dumbbell snatches I would not have been hurt.
    On one rep I lost control of the 24kg bell which I had done 6 months of snatches with happily up to that moment…I still do not know exactly how this happened….and the bell went right through my radius, which if you research it you will find is a very fragile bone if hit just right…and to hit it just right you only have to get tired or lose concentration once.
    A dumbbell could not have hurt me this way, just as no dumbbell hurt me in the previous 24 years.
    As long as you keep hold of the dumbbell it will not hit you.
    I kept hold of the kettlebell even when it broke my arm.
    I even finished the rep and lowered the bell in control.
    But a kettlebell can hit you heavily enough to break your arm, even if you have full hold of the handle, arm locked out etc.
    The South African orthopaedic surgeon Dr J P Driver-Jowitt has also corresponded with me about the injury, and he suggested I warn others as the radius is extremely vulnerable to injury when the arm is locked out overhead, if it is struck.

    Perhaps someone will read this and not make the same bad mistake.

    If I had read that snatches had ever broken an arm I would not have taken up the practise.

    I researched kettlebells thoroughly for weeks before trying them, reading online reviews at Dragon Door etc, and heard of no such injury ever happening so I felt safer than I should have.

    Likewise, being able to do sets of snatches for 6 months with not so much as a bruise made me feel completely safe, but none of that meant anything when I was drinking morphine in hospital or now that I’m trying to rehab a forearm with a plate and 6 screws in it.

  23. Fair enough. Your logic is troubling though. People get killed in the bathroom. Does that mean we should avoid it? You may consider reading a copy of “Struck By Lightening” and I think you may feel better about kettlebells. Remember, you stated how much swings and snatches help you get lean and apparently other resistance training wasn’t helping you in that regard.

    The best, SS

  24. Hi Sandy,
    To verify that you are who you say who you are, I was just checking out your website…very impressive 40kg turkish getup there.
    Regarding leanness, I had already discovered how to acheive that with diet, before getting the kettlebell, but I am sure that swings and snatches do help people greatly to get and stay lean in general.
    It is just, in my case, this was not worth a broken arm, surgery, plates and screws holding my bone together now.
    I’m sure you can understand that and would feel similarly.
    Regarding your startements about logic, I have used bathrooms without injury for 41 years.
    The kettlebell broke my arm after only 9 months of use.
    My logic troubles you but you do not say why exactly.
    I am simply warning people that it is possible to break your arm doing a set of kettlebell snatches, even if you have been doing them seemingly safely for 6 months beforehand (no signs of bruise on forearm etc, or pain beforehand, no warnings such as those which were the only warnings I had ever read about in the kettlebell books).
    I know that people are not aware of that risk, because people are so surprised when I tell them what has happened, including RKCs and Dragon Door’s representative.
    I don’t actually feel bad about kettlebells or think people should avoid snatching (although if you find Steve Maxwell’s response to me on his website he makes good points about snatching and its possible overuse as an exercise…I’ve had an RKC write to me similarly and tell me that it is something that he does only 5 per cent of the time).
    I really enjoyed snatching until the rep that broke my arm.
    I had influenced 2 friends to buy kettlebells by then and they thought my form and training looked safe and that such an injury was unimaginable.
    To finish with logic again, if I had been doing a dumbbell snatch with 24kg on April 4th I would not have broken my arm.
    I’m just putting the true information out, in case it stops anyone making the same mistake I did.
    Perhaps my mistake was trying to learn from books and dvds.
    I had successfully used books to learn weight training, yoga, chi k,ung, over 24 years previously, but maybe kettlebells are a different matter.
    It may be that RKC training leaves you with such good form that you could never make a mistake and break the forearm.
    That is hard for me to believe now, because I have seen how easily that bone breaks, and breaks so badly the surgeons then have to come in and screw the bone back together.
    I had never had any injury beforehand, from training, no broken bone.
    So it seemed to me logical now to warn people that snatching does have this danger.
    You said earlier that it was not “snatches” that injured me but “his snatches”.
    That could be said of anyone, obviously everyone’s snatches will not be perfect or ideal.
    My snatches were good enough to get me through 6 months of training, many sets of 8, with no injury, bruise, or pain, or warning like that.
    I have never been killed in a bathroom or struck by lightning, if I was I would call that an accident.
    But if I throw a 24kg metal ball up over my head again and again for 6 months and then one day I walk into my garden and do it again and end up in hospital…that seems something I really could have, and really would have, preferred never to have done to myself.
    Why was I doing it?
    Because I’d read and watched dvds for months, of people doing it safely, it seemed very safe, no warnings were being shown.
    In 41 years, I think it;’s the only time I ever let myself be brainwashed into thinking something was safe, that, if you thought about it without the positive suggestions everywhere that 24kg balls can be thrown up at speed without danger of injury, your commonsense would tell you that, no, this is probably very dangerous.
    Again, regarding logic, I’ve already told you that the South African surgeon who was good enough to correspond with me, he suggests that the information should be out there, people deserve to be warned, that the radius is a fragile bone when the forearm is locked out overhead, and the snatch, even a perfect one, has to arrive against that bone.
    No mistakes? Not even on the 200th rep of a SS Snatch Test? When fatigue sets in?
    All I’m saying is, this injury was very very easy to do, it happened in a fraction of a second.
    The first rep of the set was fine, the 2nd broke my arm.
    Let people reading this make their own minds up, about what is logical.
    John Logan

  25. The risks using Kettlebells are small and Health and Saftey beauracats have no place in the fitness industry. Tell me whats more dangerous – walking around with 20kg of lard around your waist or snatching a kettlebell that could perhaps hurt your wrist. If people think kettlebells are dangerous go back to your metrosexual gym with the pathetic video screens (never really understood those), ceiling to floor mirrors, isolation machines and plug in your ipod. Leave the hard stuff to people that know what’s good for them.

    Please can we end this post on broken wrists!



    PS: The H & S warning on my iron tells me not to iron my clothes whilst wearing them – surely it’s quicker that way?

  26. Mike, your snotty comments are completely out of line and
    I’m surprised you can read the warning on your iron – obviously, testosterone poisoning affects the brain first.
    By the by, I read quite widely (novels, newspapers – not irons) and have never read of anyone being killed in bathroom.

  27. Plenty of people have been killed in the bathroom by slipping over whilst standing in the shower and cracking their head.

    As for testosterone – that’s what the kettle bells do to you and of course the hormome that is key to your overal well being. Forget waisting your money on protein shakes. Do some squats, kettle bells swings etc and see your levels rise. (the wife likes it too!)

  28. I read the broken arm post on Steve Maxwell’s blog ( a couple of months ago??) and now I see it here. Obviously no one was there to see it happen or your technique or even if it was “one of those things”. I DO know as an RKC that this is the first time I have heard of this kind of injury. I also don’t overdo snatches with KB’s. I use swings much more often. I do use KB’s for many workouts and exercises. I love em. Dumbells are good for other stuff. They are definitely better for isolation type exercises. They are ok for snatching, cleans etc. The main difference is that the dumbell sits in my hand while the KB hangs on the back of my arm. It works my shoulder much differently. They are also VERY versatile. You have to learn how to move yourself under the weight instead of the other way around. A TGU is a great example.
    Having said that though it is s good idea to switch off sometimes. I (for example) was doing clean and pressing with a DB the other day (first time in a long time) and I could feel the difference and that is a good thing sometimes. Change it up sometimes. Plus if I ever decide to go after the “showy” muscles (like the biceps) I would use DB’s much of the time.

  29. Hi Mike,
    In Scotland where I come from, when people talk about the “hard stuff” they usually mean whiskey!
    I’ve never been to a metrosexual gym…
    I was not talking about a hurt wrist from the snatches…I have never injured myself before in 24 years of training…I worked up to stuff like 17 slow one-arm pushups with right arm, touching chest to ground on every rep (only 11 with left arm)…so my training background was never “metrosexual” whatever that is.
    And I was very happy training with the 24 kg bell, did sets of 8 snatches easily, weekly, for 6 months…I’m happy to shut up now about the injury because the warning is out there, which I feel a certain responsibility to accomplish…
    But if you keep trying to reduce the injury’s significance, I’ll have to keep countering that…to repeat, it was not a “hurt wrist”…the bell snapped the radius bone in my forearm clean in two pieces, about a third of the way up the arm from the wrist. There was no way that bone was ever going to go back together naturally…left alone you basically would have a flipper, a hand that could not be turned or used for anything.
    So then they have to do major surgery, Mike, leaving you with a steel plate and 6 screws through the bone, permanently, unless you want to risk a removal operation later, after 2 years, which has the risk of causing nerve damage and losing use of the hand.
    A hurt wrist, Mike?
    No not exactly.

    Hello Robert,
    Yes, I wrote to Steve Maxwell after the accident (which happened 10 weeks ago today), his reply was very thoughtful and encouraging and he posted it on his website.
    There was actually a witness, and even a photograph taken of the lowering phase of the first snatch rep, before the 2nd rep that broke the arm.
    Neither factor would prove anything conclusively about my form though, so I mentioned above that a full account of the accident and my attempt to describe form, can be had if you google “kettlebell snatch broken arm”, from where I posted on the site.
    Since I’d done 6 months of snatches with the 24kg, with no pain or inury or bruise or warning that I managed to sense, I think there must be an element of it being “one of those things”, but I’ve also tried to describe above why (I’ve now been told by otopeadic surgeons) the arm is very vulnerable to injury in the snatch position.
    I know that you are right that this is an unheard-of injury, because I have been told the same by other RKCs etc, and by kettlebell experts in the UK.
    I certainly had no idea such a thing was possible.
    Interestingly, to me, the reaction when I informed some of the most famous kettlebell teachers, including the origin of the RKC movement, was not what I expected.
    I would have expected the man who started the American kettlebell movement off about 8 years ago, or his publisher, to want to know how and why exactly this injury happened.
    Those people do make claims to a high level of professionalism, focused on preventing injury etc…but the fact is, those two gentlemen would not even reply to me, their respresentative simply told me they felt there was “nothing to say”.
    One of the reasons I felt so safe snatching the bell weekly for 6 months, aside from the fact that it felt good, and there seemed to be no possibility of that changing, was that I’d thoroughly researched it first, reading all reviews at DD and elsewhere, and could find no mention of such an injury being possible.
    It is not a risk I would have taken knowingly.
    Also, it is very hard to find evidence online of people rehabbing this injury successfully (which will not stop me doing so, at the 10 week poijnt since surgery I can clean and press a 10kg dumbbell 15 times with the bad arm, not allowed to go heavier yet)
    Maybe Americans reading this should be extra careful, my surgery and physiotherapy was provided by the National Health Service here, so I receive no bill.
    In America, even with insurance an unnecessary injury like this will have costs…and without insurance could wipe someone out financially.
    The main difference between kettlebell and dumbbell, on the snatch, is not that the dumbbell sits in your hand and the kettlebell hangs on the back of your arm…the main difference is that a dumbbell snatch where you keep firm grip of the db, cannot break your arm…but a kettlebell snatch can.
    My form?
    It was good enough to get me through 6 months of weekly snatching safely and comfortably, sets of 8.
    No bruises, no pain.
    But it was not good enough to prevent me getting this injury…or else the injury was a freak accident…it happened so fast I still do not know for sure even 10 weeks later.

  30. John:

    A triathlon competitor died of a heart attack a few weeks back in Stratford upon Avon whilst on the cycling segment. Like kettlebells, I think the public should be warned on the dangers of cycling. You broke your wrist, it cost this guy his life. So KB training much safer than cycling. Though perhaps KB training on a bike could be worse.

    By the way Kettlebell training is all about timed sets, not about X number of reps per set.

    I’m up to 182 single arm 24kg snatches in 10mins. 200+ is the goal for year end (unless I break my wrist or fall of my bike).

    At least you have a macho plate & scar on your forearm!

    I’ll shut up now.



  31. John Logan,

    It was unfortunate that you received such an injury. While it is good to warn others about what may happen, it sounds like a freak accident. You know, maybe the planets were aligned wrong or the westerly winds were flowing harsh that day. Wait… what was I talking about?


  32. Hello John,
    I’ve admired Clarence Bass’ books for many years, so I sent him an email about the accident in April.
    What he said was very much like what you say, he thought it was a freak accident…and that I “hit one rep where stars were just not right”…

  33. Wow some tension here.. As a personal trainer I am open to all forms of exercise and believe that injury can (and does) come from any form of that exercise. It’s a matter of identifying the risk and eliminating it..
    I’ve just startrted to bring kettlebells into my sessions, slowly, and I love them. They are different and keep clients excited.

  34. Aye Nelson…well, lucky or not lucky is all relative…it’s the only injury I ever got in 24 years of training…
    Long-winded…well, typing is good rehab…and I’d have loved to keep it short…and did intitially if you read above…I only got wordy when people were doubting that my injury was genuine.
    Then I hit them with full detail, which, when you’re telling the truth, is sometimes very convincing. But yes, it gets lengthy.
    Also, I had to keep correcting people who did not read what I had written.
    It was not the wrist or anywhere near it that broke.
    It was the mid-third of the forearm bone.
    That is important because there are some kettlebell “experts” who think the only risk is to the wrist, from those badly designed short handle bells that bang the wrist….but the bell that broke my arm had a deep handle so they’re definitely not as safe as the “experts” are making out.
    Also, the long-windedness is to provide the full detailed picture to anyone reading who might need to know kettlebell snatching can break your arm, even if you’ve been snatching happily with no problem for many months…if I didn’t go into the lengthy detail, people would believe and listen even less.
    The “experts” tell me I’m the only person in the world this has happened to. On the other hand, I had private emails from 2 famous kettlebell experts who told me they believed there had been other such injuries but that they were not well publicised…they blamed some of the training systems that encourage heavier bells too soon…
    So I’ve tried to publicise my injury a bit.
    MOst annoying thing about the injury at the 7 month point now after it…is the feel of a steel plate inside one’s forearm…I’d like to get it out in a year or so, but half the docs say it is too dangerous to take out because of risk of nerve damage…my local docs say that, they think metal should stay in for life (this may be British NHS trying to save money, I’m not sure yet).

  35. It is unfortunate when people get injured during exercise. However, the benefits of all exercise, not just kettlebells, out weigh any reasons not to do any. Accidents do happen – you could drop a dumb bell on your foot.

    Let’s talk about the benefits of kettlebells – Increased strength, power, endurance, speed, explosiveness. All in one indistructable tool – the kettlebell.

  36. Hey Mike…you said on June 16 you were going to shut up about this! (kidding)
    You also said your target for year end was 200 plus snatches in 10 minutes with the 24kg bell.
    In the 9 months I was snatching…I had the same book you did maybe…with the 200 snatch goal…”then you’d be a man”…
    You were at 182 snatches in June you said…(see above)…closest I got was 16…so I had a long long way to go but I really wanted to get there…them kettlebell books and dvds made it look like it was true…”you’ll be a man”…(I should have remembered I was probably already one of those at 41 years age)…but the hype was so sweet…
    Instead, I got a steel plate.
    Now, if I’d got it in my foot by dropping a kettlebell or dumbbell on it, I’d call that an accident…and there’;d be nothing more to say…
    But now I know that an exercise where you are deliberately aiming an iron ball at speed, basically at the forearm, again and again…well, there’s no room for error….
    Let’s just say we’ve got different experiences of the good old kettlebell Mike.
    Also, a one-size-fits-all goal like 200 snatches with a 24kg bell in 10 minutes and you are “a man” “a special forces operative”…that’s exactly the kind of hype and focus on weight…that them 2 kettlebell experts whose names you’d recognise wrote me and told me they thought caused injuries like mine.
    There’s a lack of real knowledge behind all the hype.
    That’s why the so-called experts were so surprised such an injury was possible…they just weren’t so “expert” after all.
    It’s pretty arrogant to world-mass-market a training tool, without even knowing all the risks involved…like that snatches break arms.
    I’ve been told outright by these people that they did not know such a thing could happen…and yet they’re writing books on the subject?
    The reason I did not get hurt in the previous 24 years training was that I was never following any latest trends or gimmicks…like them thar iron balls that many people believe went out of fashion 100 years ago for a good reason…they can hurt people!
    Not the “I dropped a dumbbell on my toes” kind of accident…more the, I just put my kettlebell through my arm while “snatching” kind of thing.
    Momentum and weight…ballistic momentum…coming together is something my previous weight training etc did not prepare me for…
    I thought i had…and for 9 months it was going great so I thought all was well…then it went through my arm?
    That wasn’t in the book, man.

    But I agree it’s an indestructible tool…it’ll go through bone so easy that, did you hear, they used to make cannonballs (without the handles) and fire tham at people?

    Napoleon made a career out of it.

  37. To correct you. The ball does not hit the arm and it would break your arm if it did. Instead the forearm meets the bell (gently). ‘Tame the arc’ as explained in the book and all the courses.
    Do it correctly and there is no danger whatsover – because there is NO impact. I’ve never had a bruise or any other disscomfort other than I high pulse rate at the end of a session.

    I’m up to 192 snatches in 10 minutes, nearly there but I reckon the last few are going to be the toughest. I can do 110 in 5 minutes.
    The only time I ever been injured is using those horrible machines you see at the gym. Kettlebells exercises have a more natural holistic nature due to the fact that the weight is off centre.
    Dumbbells are most commonly used to develop specific muscle groups in an isolated fashion. (your body does not work in isolation so why train it that way)

    Due to its shape and weight distribution, the momentum generated by kettlebell swings, for example, provides a more “real world” full body muscle stimulation and physical challenge. During dynamic movements with the kettlebell, stability is minimized to enhance quick movement, which is important training for athletes, students of the martial arts and even mothers of young children.

    I cannot stress enough that it is important to have some proper instruction on how to use them safely from a certified trainer – not from a book or even a DVD. Books and DVDs are there just to support your learning.

    Kettlebells never went away or out of fashion. Trainers always used them but they are quite specialist.
    On the other hand the reason why gyms have machines is purely for economic reasons so they can employ cheaper staff.

    As I’ve said before, there are risks in all exercises, including kettlebells though relatively low. It’s just unfortunate what happened to you and I’m sorry it has.

  38. To correct you. I did not say that the ball should hit the arm.
    What I said was:
    “But now I know that an exercise where you are deliberately aiming an iron ball at speed, basically at the forearm, again and again…well, there’s no room for error….”
    I understood tame the arc, and the forearm meeting the bell gently…but for the bell to meet the forearm at all it has to move upward at some speed aiming at meeting its intended (soft) landing point the forearm.
    Like you, I had no bruise or discomfort after weekly snatching with the 24kg bell, every week for 6 months. I only did sets of 8. sometimes 2 sets of 8 eachj arm, 32 reps in total.
    No problems.
    Then one day I went in the garden, after warming up with 6 cleans and presses each side with the 24kg bell…3 sets of high pulls each side…just like usual…I started the snatch set…first rep was fine…no problem…in my 9 months training I had never had a forearm bruise or any such sign of bad form…so first rep was like always, fine….then 2nd rep there was a crack sound, the arm was broken.
    I have no idea even now why that 2nd rep was different than all the safe reps of snatches I had done over 6 months…but I know that speed and momentum and an iron ball can do that, and I know it isn’t worth it.
    Anyone, especially when fatigue sets in like say on the 199th snatch, could make an error and miss the soft landing on the forearm…
    If I hadn’t experienced it, I would have the exact same attitude you have. I was very gung ho for 9 months of kettlebelling, 3 people who saw me train with the thing thought it looked so effective they were about to order their own bells.
    But once something like that happens you realise it is an unnecessary risk.
    Ross Enamait’s website and books use dumbbells for swings, snatches, cleans and presses, turkish getups…and without that risk of the soft arm catch going to xxxx on one bad rep, then the emergency room.
    The way I;m seeing it now (from this unique vantage point) is, I can snatch a dumbbell and as long as I keep hold of that handle it cannot strike me.
    But, even if I could snatch a kettlebell ever again…could I be sure i would never do a bad rep ever?
    Maybe some people are so perfect they can be sure of that.
    Or maybe I hit some freakishly bad luck and this can happen to noone else.
    But it’s a lot to ask…hundreds of snatches…thousands…and not one error while tired or just on an off day…
    Also, when I reported this injury, there were guys who just refused to believe a 24kg bell could break an arm…no matter how bad the form…again, when I snatched for 6 months I totally assumed that too…I had never been injured in 24 years training because I was very robust and had taken all sorts of tweaks and knocks and just bounced back…martial arts practise likie chi kung, nei kung, had made me quite pneumatic when it came to taking knocks always before.
    No way would I have believed such a thing could happen from my favourite exercise, the snatch.
    But that was because the books and DVDs and even a few youtube videos had badly misinformed me about the level of risk snatching a 24kg bell really does involve.
    Maybe, as you say, a level of form can be attained that is so flawless every snatch will always land soft, no errors ever.
    But I don;t know.
    I would believe that about a slow, controlled movement or lift…but heavy ballistic training…I think the jury is still out.
    It’s only 8 years or so that the bells have been used more widely…outside the specialists…by “the masses”
    Obviously now I am not a fan.
    The books and DVDs are sold as instructional tools…you are right to stress that proper certified instruction is crucial here, which I did not have…but then again, I safely learned many techniques from books and vidoes over the years…so again that proves that there is a higher than usual level of risk here.
    And no way do the books warn you of that…they warn only of bruising, nothing more…and the reason is that the books’ authors, as they have admitted to me, did not know a snatch could break and arm (not done by someone who’d snatched with no pain or bruising for 6 months beforehand)….
    The instructional DVDs are worse…in one well known DVD the “instructor” is giving his forearm a real thump every time he snatches what looks like a 48kg bell.
    That’s really great training advice.
    The next DVD done by that instructor about 6 years later though, shows a flawless smooth “taming of the arc”, so the guy had at least learned something…but guess what? he and his associates are still selling the older dvd with the rough snatch form…(I know because it is one of the ones I bought)
    when I pointed this out on their website forum, to warn other folks who might want to keep their arms in one piece, man they deleted my post fast.

    those gym machines you got injured on must be more dangerous than I realised…but I always sensed they were bad news and only used free weights myself.
    But Steve Maxwell emailed me a few months back and said the worst injury he ever got was on a super slow Nautilus machine…

    1. You are very bothered by what happened to you, bottom line you were using a kettlebell size that you werent ready for you should have started lighter then worked your way up

  39. You’r not aiming the ball at your arm – your aiming your arm at the ball – there’s a difference. Your injury was caused by a miss timed snatch.

    A footballer can break his leg with a miss timed tackle and I’m sure that you can say the same about almost every other sport. A boxer can break a wrist by hitting a punch bag incorrectly. Running can give you no end of problems. Are these unnecessary risks too? Life is about taking risks.

    What’s important is that injury using kettlebells is very rare. Sadly it happened to you, which is a shame. Although the books all mention that using kettlebells can be dangerous.

    In some ways I hope the masses don’t start using kettlebells, I’ve always prefered to be different.

    It’s good that you are staying away from those machines though John!

    I’m 43 and never been fitter due to using the kettlebell.

    1. Mike, ‘life is full of risks’ aside, if I am training for power and not to compete in kettlebell lifting, why should I be snatching/cleaning something which is more dangerous? The time needed to learn how to decelerate the bell and do it safely is time taken away from training strength and energy systems by going full out.

  40. Just another quick point. Learning from DVDs and books is not ideal as they give you no feedback whatsoever. You may think you are doing it right but I’ve seen many people’s form vary widly than what they saw on the video. Go to a certified instructor (RKC the best) always and you won’t get injured – at least it will lessen the chances of getting injured.

    Kettlebells are not for the faint hearted – if in doubt go for a run instead or take up tennis.

  41. Good website Mike, I used to watch Brian Jacks doing those dips back in the 70s on Superstars…what was it, a FRiday after school it was on tv?

    Aiming your arm at the ball…not aiming the ball at your arm…I thought I had it all under control after 9 months training but no…

    What bugs me is that, after using the kettlebell for 9 months, I was fitter at 41 than I’d ever been………….then bang it goes through the arm and I’m suddenly in worse shape than I’d ever been.

    42 this month……maybe I could get the metal plate out next year, if I can find a UK doc confident they wouldn’t cut my nerve and mess my hand up permanently…seems most of the UK docs are not confident of that, at least 3 I spoke to……if they do get the plate out then there’s 6 holes left in the bone where the screws were…I hear for a year after that you have to watch out in case of the bone breaking again with those holes…but, it might be possible by maybe age 44 to try resting a kettlebell on the arm in rack position again…maybe an 8kg bell to start…..and all assuming the plate removal operation hasn’t crippled the hand…

    Right now, I prefer to just curse that demon 24kg kettlebell god.

    I was looking online at Jillian Michael’s teaching the bad form on qvc…that led me to sandy sommer’s site where he critiques her…but also to this website where some kettlebell expert is advising people, telling them that Michaels is dangerous…but this thunderkitty expert is just directing people to the book and dvd type of learning, which is all I had, and which as you say is not enough.

    Faint-hearted? Man, if I had been more faint-hearted I wouldn’t be in this position now…I was too pumped up about my kettlebell training…too gungho…not enough doubts…

    I almost got xxxed up once playing tennis…I won the point and the guy threw his racket at my head.
    Never got hurt running…
    Never got hurt doing dips either…I didn’t do Superstars partial reppers either…I used to be the only guy in gym who did really low deep dips…so low my neck would be on the bar…I read recently that would mess up your shoudlers….but it felt good doing them for 20 years…probably because I did it all super slow and by what felt good, not by what I read anywhere.

  42. I’ve seen the Jillian Michaels clip too, I’m surprised the host never got injured on the set the way he was jumping around! Reminds me of another QVC sketch when the demonstrator fell off the ladder he was selling. (I think it was a safety ladder!).

    I’ve been doing dips on a jungle gym (also called a TRX), very hard as you have to stabilise your whole body. Let’s hope I don’t pop a shoulder. LOL.

    Anyway, I wish you a speedy full recovery if they take the plate out.

  43. I wish you a speedy and complete recovery, John.

    I’m a college undergrad who has recently purchased a 24 kg bell of my own (in place of a gym membership) under the premise of training for the USSS snatch test. After considering your posts, I’ve decided that for my fitness goals I have no need to condition the bones of my forearms to withstand repeated contact with heavy iron flung at maximum speed. It seems like common sense, when the kettlebell mystique is removed, that the risk to benefit ratio of the snatch is exceptionally dangerous compared to other movements.

    Further, no RKC has been able to provide a consistent rationale for why the snatch provides better athletic benefits than a high pull or one armed swing performed to head level. That seemingly negligible flipping action of the bell does seem to infuse the snatch with more risk than benefit, especially when the weight becomes as heavy as 32 kg.

    I’ve decided to adopt the moderate approach to kettlebells, using the strict military press and turkish get up (neither of which absolutely require a kettlebell) for upper body conditioning, and using the one armed swing and high pull for posterior chain development and cardiovascular conditioning. I still stand by aspects of the RKC training philosophy, but with serious reservations concerning ballistic movements with a potential for impact.

    It should stand to reason that regardless of whether kettlebell lifters agree with your account or not, the precautionary principle dictates that we should weigh potential risks with potential benefits. Athletically, suppose a parkour club decided that running downstairs two steps at a time was the proper way to run stairs, simultaneously training coordination, reaction speed, and concentration under fatigue (the claims of the USSS kettlebell snatch test). Suppose even one of them fell and broke an arm while running downstairs two at a time.

    A member of the club might criticize the injured person’s technique like a bully…

    Or they might conclude that the risk of running in that fashion negates any perceived benefit, and further, that running downstairs one step at a time would yield the same benefits without the same potential for disaster. For those who train with kettlebells, I suggest considering the benefits and risks of each movement, and diminishing risks when possible.

    I believe you’ve done a service to the fitness community through your testimonial, John. Best of luck,

    -Ben Reynolds
    Nevada, USA

  44. The best form of training is the one you actually like and do.
    So if you don’t like kettlebells, you won’t do them.
    Kettlebells are not for some people and that’s fine. You can’t really compare them to dumbbells, they are just different. Most people use both, as well as other form of training such as body weight, running, cycling, sports, and martial arts.

    People who criticise a training method with their narrow and sterile views hold the fitness industry back and destroys the courage required to try new training methods or even create new methods of their own. If these people who complain about a certain methology (not just KBs) sought out an expert in the field and listen with an open mind it may actually propel the industry forward.
    Fitness comes down to commitment and persistence

    1. “You can’t really compare them to dumbbells, they are just different.” These expressions are annoying, you can compare anything, especially 2 free weights.

      “People who criticise a training method with their narrow and sterile views hold the fitness industry back” Explain sterile in this context? Narrow? Instead of flinging insults at KB critics it’d be more polite to critique their arguments and not their characters, you ad hominimer.

      “destroys the courage required to try new training methods or even create new methods of their own.” I wouldn’t want to do that, so I probably shouldn’t criticize people doing military presses balancing on swiss balls. Caring about people getting effective results and avoiding injury isn’t as important as inventing nifty new skill techniques which they can get certified to instruct people to do.

      “If these people who complain about a certain methology (not just KBs) sought out an expert in the field and listen with an open mind it may actually propel the industry forward.” I like this assumption that anybody with a criticism about Kettlebells is narrow-minded, and hasn’t listened open-mindedly.

      We’re ignoring of course, that forearm-shattering guy trained with KB snatches for years and was a total convert. I pretty much was myself until encountering this criticism.

  45. Dear John Logan:

    I can totally sympathize with you over your problem with the damage snatching a 24kg bell did to you. I used to run (on the roads) on a regular basis with no pain whatsoever, until quite recently when I could not get out of bed in the morning due to severe knee pain. On inspection by a knee surgeon it was revealed that my knee joints are completely ‘shot’ due to repetitive pounding on the roads while running. The club who I used to run for, the shop where I bought my trainers from and indeed the leaflet enclosed with my Nike shoes never once mentioned that running on the roads is bad for you. Despite repeated e-mails to Nike, they refuse to accept any responsibility. But even some of their marketing hype shows people running on hard tarmac and concrete. Like kettlebell banging against the wrist, people must be made to be aware that repeated pounding on hard concrete will cause problems. Nike ‘Air’ is not like running on air! I’ve learnt the hard way like you. My quest now is to make people aware of the trauma that running on the roads can cause. I will try and post comments on every running shoe website, advising potential customers about this.

    What started out as a fitness regime, destroyed by knees and now I even have trouble walking.

    Definitely won’t be doing any kettlebell training too, looks like bad news to me.

    I sincerely hope you make some kind of recovery John.

    My prayers are with you.

    God bless


  46. Many people have no concept of responsibility and so blame others.
    If Pavel decided to write about every possible injury and thing that could go wrong with lifting a 24kg weight above your head (and let’s face it’s a really stupid thing to do and makes no sense anyway – LOL), his book would be like an encyclopedia!
    There’s no such things as bad PR, in fact by warning people it could break your arm encourages most anyway!

    When I bash myself up with my kettlebell I’ll treat it as badge of honour!

    1. “Many people have no concept of responsibility and so blame others.” I hope you appreciate the irony (KBs are made of irony) in this, if we look at how people promoting Kettlebells and these dangerous swings don’t accept responsibility for advocating these techniques, and blame the practitioners who receive injuries.

      “If Pavel decided to write about every possible injury .. his book would be like an encyclopedia!” I’m sure he’d have enough room for a couple warning pages if the 10+ pages of ads for other DD books were removed from the back.

      “and thing that could go wrong with lifting a 24kg weight above your head (and let’s face it’s a really stupid thing to do and makes no sense anyway – LOL)” Lifting weights overhead isn’t stupid, it trains important muscles and gives us strength to protect our heads from falling objects.

      “by warning people it could break your arm encourages most anyway!” lol wut

      “When I bash myself up with my kettlebell I’ll treat it as badge of honour!” That’s cool for your bruises, but doesn’t help people with chronic pain from serious injuries.

  47. Kettlebells, dumbbells, and resistance bands all have a part in developing a physically fit body. Over the past few years, I’ve been training with mainly kettlebells and resistance bands. The began to be implemented into my training regime due to chronic shoulder injury from BJJ training.

    The kettlebells are a great tool for rehabing a shoulder. Doing movements like swings, slingshots, figure 8 pass under the legs, and cleans really helped. Using proper technique is extremely important!!! Use a weight that you can “feel” but not too heavy that you sacrifice form and potentially cause injury to yourself.

    There are a few certified kettlebell instructors around, but if you can’t find one an instructional DVD can help you learn proper form. One of my favorite is from Art Of Strength, and another is from kettlebellinc. Just don’t go at it on your own!

    So if kettlebells are good for rehab, then why resistance bands? Certain kettlebell exercises can cause more harm than good when you have an injury because the motions are very dynamic – which is what makes the kettlebell a fun and excellent tool for getting lean and strong. Therefore, resistance bands helped to strenghten the rotator cuffs, traps, serratus anterior, and lats. Once my shoulder got stronger, more kettlebell exercises could be added like the windmill and bent press.

    Whatever your fitness goals are, adding kettlebell training to your workout will help you get there a lot sooner.

  48. Yes I think the difference is that kettlebells are just different. I do both, dumbbells and kettlebells and I use them for different exercises. But I still can’t help but to think, that a kettle bell is just a dumbbell with a handle.

  49. Awesome! An article addressing if Kettlebells are better by an author that hasn’t even used them.

    What is the point?

      1. Earth you’re wrong, it did have a point, and you just explained why. TF was just trying to be offensive.

        You don’t have to do something to state curiosities or examine something and its attributes.

        That’s like saying a physicist with broken legs can never analyze the kinetics of surfing or running.

  50. Kettlebells are a fad. It’s popular. It’s something “new”, and everyone wants something new. Yes, you can do the same exercise with a db vs a kb. If you want to use the handle being thicker on a kb as an advantage, up the weight in the db.

    The bottom line, is nothing has changed and never will. Db’s and bb’s are the way to go, and NOTHING will ever top that. All these so called new inventions are just a marketing tool. All these inventions (been around for decades) is not rocket science, or the cure.

    These days gyms market towards women. You’re not going to sell the common housewife on bench, squats, pullups, dips, and deads, but you’ll sell her on kb swings. Everyone wants to try it. You ever seen a bodybuilding gym? They don’t exist where i am. If they did, they would be put out of business by the “family” oriented gym

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